Applying a campaign approach to change communications

I recently spoke at the HR Summit with Lizzie Moyle, a senior change management consultant, about change fatigue that workforces across Australia are facing. Digital transformation, organisational restructures and culture change seem to be occurring at a rapid pace, and, unsurprisingly our teams are getting really tired of it.

So how do we make change more palatable? As Lizzie pointed out, people love the change they own.

This is easier said than done. The fact is they don’t own the change. But as communicators, we are responsible for giving people the platform to own what they can and understand why the change is necessary.

So let’s put the focus on people and how we communicate with them. I’m suggesting we apply some behavioural change theory and put a marketing lens over our communications to really underpin your change agenda.

As a marketer the first place I’d start when asked to launch a new brand to market is to consider how we move the consumer from zero knowledge to purchase or behavioural change.

If we count our ‘change’ as our new product in the market, we would use the AIDA model.

Let’s convert the model to suit our communications needs.

How do we make our team aware of the change? How do we launch the change program in a unified, exciting way that will share the values
How do we get their interest? We have to make it resonate so they are keen to seek out more information.
How do we make this change desirable? This is the part that’s hardest – especially when change is so often viewed negatively.
What can we action to change? What’s the incentive?

Finding the Why

So, coming back to awareness. One of the key aspects of communication is being able to articulate your message clearly and with passion. This is about understanding the why.

What is your burning platform that makes this change really necessary. If you’re in charge of communicating then it’s your job to ask this question. And if you don’t feel you’re getting the answers, keep asking. If you don’t ask the hard questions, others will.

If this change doesn’t occur, what happens?
Is there evidence to support the need for this change?
How committed is the C-suite and how engaged will they be in the change?
How much are they prepared to invest in communicating this to the team to really embrace the change process?
The answers will allow you to craft your message with authenticity and conviction.

Understand your market

Good marketers segment their customers so that they tailor their messages appropriately. So, there is no reason why you can’t do this with your internal stakeholders.

Simple segmentation can be done by demographics such as their status in the business, where they work and what type of work they do.

More sophisticated marketers look at motivations and behaviours.

Understanding your audiences’ motivations is critical to all this. And the way the hear the message will be affected by a range of things:

Messenger – the person who shares the message
Whether there’s an Incentive that they relate to (Outside of money)
Norms (what others do)
Salience (something new)
Ego (things that make us feel better)
Once you’ve sorted out your categories, try developing a persona that helps you understand how they would like to be communicated with. Do your research to ensure you have this right. I like to create a story about my persona to really get under the skin of the target market.

But most important is to remember that they need to know Whats In It For Me.

Understanding your market will affect your language, tone, timing, channel choice and feedback mechanism.

Communicate with authenticity and care

Bringing in a brand expert will make a difference. They can help you create a campaign brand that will resonate. But remember these points.

Make it easy to understand and relate to. Give your change program a name and a brand that helps it deliver your message clearly. Use it consistently so that people can immediately recognise the change program and will buy into it more quickly.

Make it personal. If you don’t tell them how it will apply to them, they’ll make up their own stories. Again, look at your audiences’ motivators, fears and drivers and relate your change program to these three factors.

Use your networks and those channels that they can share information. Stories that are shared peer to peer stick so much better than any other form.

Be timely with your communications. Don’t be scared to communicate, even if the details change. Be clear that the information is up current but may change. There is more danger in under communicating than over communicating.

Use a variety of channels

Don’t think that using one channel will be enough. Different market segments respond to different channels.

Relying simply on email may be your undoing. You need to understand your audience to create the right tools to communicate. Some will love video, others podcasts and others written word.

The most effective will always be face-to-face. If you’re going to be doing presentations, then make sure there’s time for questions. This also allows for their voices to be heard. Feedback is critical. It allows you to review messaging and channels to ensure your campaign works even better.

Don’t be afraid of social media. Facebook and LinkedIn are cheap and easy to use. Yammer is popular for large corporates but if you haven’t got this in place, it’s not something to be implemented just as you’re going into a change phase.

Check what really works. In a survey by Prescient Digital Media, only 13% of employees reported using their intranet daily—31% said they never do.

Finally, if a key channel are your team leaders / managers, train them, empower them and give them great tools that they can feel proud of.

Have a place to receive feedback

Focus groups, employee surveys, social forums are all critical. Give yourself lots of time to do this, analyse the results and use the feedback to inform future communications. Ensure that questions are answered promptly, even if only to say that they’ve been heard and that more information will come their way.

Measure your results

The proof will be in the pudding but according to IABC 60% of internal communicators don’t do this leaving them open to have their funding for comms affected or removed.

To finish

Understand your why – and I mean really understand it.
Make sure you share that message clearly and in detail, and radiate integrity and authenticity.
Understand the people you’re communicating with – their motivations, fears and drivers.
Choose channels that are natural to use and can be shared easily.
And listen hard to feedback. It’s not a reflection of your work – good or bad. Feedback is like gold so use it to your advantage.
If you want to find out more about how Clarity can assist you with your internal communications challenges, contact us now.


Kellie Hasluck

Kellie has provided Western Australian businesses with communications advice for nearly 20 years as a co-founder of Clarity. She provides coaching and mentoring services to executives in the resources, engineering and financial services and not for profit sectors. Kellie is an experienced public relations practitioner undertaking strategic planning, community consultation, media relations, and internal communications for large national and international organisations.